Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Letter #58 - October 25, 2010

Hey mom and dad,

To answer your questions while they are still in my mind, Presidente Arredondo asked all of the North Americans if we could ask our parents to just send an additional package when they send one to us. But you have a good point because there are a lot fewer North American sisters than Latinas. Right now I think there are 16 sisters in the mission and only 5 of us are gringas. Maybe just send two generic packages if it is not too expensive, instead of gift bags for each one. I don't know. Or maybe one generic package that one of the sisters that never gets any mail can have and a package with gift bags for all of them (I think it would be about 11 but probably more will be here by Christmas, so maybe 15). Anything will be greatly appreciated but I don't want you to go into debt sending mail to Nicaragua or making Christmas joy for all the orphans in the whole world...

Um, what else? Yes, they do celebrate Halloween here in some way or other I think, and actually the day after Halloween is kind of like their memorial day, but instead of giving it a nice name like memorial day, they call it the day of the dead or something equally macabre. But I really don't know what Halloween will be like because I wasn't here in Halloween last year, I was confined in the Guatemala MTC practicing Spanish verbs, with my companions nametag on instead of my own, for a lame excuse at a costume. So, I'll let you know how Halloween goes. Is it this week? Wow, how fast
the time is going.

Um, um, umbrella. I think that a high tech umbrella would be very useful here. And I've been wishing I had one for about 4 months. Haha. The problem would be lugging it around. But especially after the monsoon we had yesterday and the trashed umbrella that I was under, which did virtually nothing for me because we arrived at the closest house as if we had swam there, I think a rubber jumpsuit might be better suited.

Well, I don't have a ton of time left, but I wanted to tell you a little about the "new doctrine" that we are putting into practice now. It is nothing new really, just PMG applied and more direct. We are focusing even more in inspired questions and learning to listen to the investigator as well as the spirit and then discerning what to teach instead of arriving at the house with a set plan ahead of time. It is a little more exciting because it's much more comfortable to go with a nice little plan of everything you're going to teach, but we have had a lot of good experiences. The inspired question is the key. It is a question that really hits home with the investigator, that makes them examine their lives and the deepest desires of their hearts. And then the spirit lets us know which doctrine we should teach them, always with questions. It's really been exciting to put this method in practice and we had some really great lessons. I wish I could tell you about all of them and about all of the people we're teaching right now, but maybe next week...

I do want to tell you about some crazy things I experienced yesterday though. Yesterday was pretty much a crappy day. I'll just say it. Out of the 17 positive investigators that told us they would come to church, only 1 actually came through. Even after going by all of their houses Sunday morning to pick them up and help them get ready. In sacrament meeting I stared up at the ceiling fan, working feverishly to keep the congregation cool, and tried to keep the tears back. It was pointless. I felt defeated. Well, after that, pretty much nobody was home. But actually, the monsoon, instead of dampening my spirit body along with my physical body, really lifted my mood. I just like the rain. I can't help it. Even when the rivers flooding through the streets are brown, smell like poo, and the floating trash makes you sick. Haha, that's just Nicaragua.

Well, when we finally found some investigators that were home, we went in and started asking them questions. We starting teaching about families and about our loving Father in Heaven, when some vagos started throwing rocks, one landing in the back patio of the house where the niños were playing. That sent papa Juan into a wild rage and he stormed outside and basically started a brawl. There were death threats flying back and forth, and then they threatened to pull out a pistol. They threw more rocks and hit Juan in the back. Then they started calling each other stupid, which is like insulting your ancestors and the very core of your soul. Basically the lesson didn't turn out so well in the end. We left when the family was storming out to go to the police, because they never answered the phone.

Well, as we were walking down the street a few minutes later, a truck passed with the truck bed stacked up with decapitated pig carcasses. Yummy. But the funniest thing was the muchacho sitting on top of the pile waving at us like, "No big deal, I sit on dead pig bodies with no heads every day," which truly is probably the case. Well, sorry for the mega paragraph today. My thoughts were a little unorganized. But guess what? I love you all a whole lot. Thanks for all you do, for your prayers and cares and thoughts and especially emails.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - some things only happen in Nicaragua. :)

Love, Hna. Crosland

P.S. Tell Brookie that I love her and that yes, I did get at least one Dear Elder from her. The thing is, I'm just a really bad pen pal... I will try to send her a letter soon. BBYYEEEE!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Letter #57 - October 19, 2010

Hello Dearies,

That picture of Lake Powell is so gorgeous! Man, I miss the desert. Haha. I also miss the seasons changing. Here there are only two options. Super hot, and super hot with rain. I'm glad everyone seems to be doing so well and being nourished by the good word of God as well. This week I learned a good lesson.

We have been working hard to find some new investigators and teach them with members to help them progress and come to church. To me it seems hard to get people to church out here, but I don't want to sound like a complainer to missionaries who have a much harder time. Well, Friday night rolled around and when the Elders called to ask us what our goal was for investigators in church on Sunday, I told him I thought we might be able to get 4 there (we had only 1 two weeks ago and 2 the week before). It seemed like the realistic answer to me. We are teaching about 20 which means that around 4 will actually show up at church and maybe 2 of them will get baptized in the next few weeks.

But then he surprised me and said, "No hermana, your goal is 15."

What? 15? I could feel myself starting to get irritated. Why did he think that he could just set my goal for me, and an unrealistic goal at that. And for what I did next, I feel really bad about. I just told him straight up how I felt.

"Elder, that is not a goal, that is a dream. And I don't work with unrealistic dreams. I work with goals that are acutally accomplishable. Maybe if you had told us on Monday that we had to get 15 investigators in church we could have had time to make plans and realistically accomplish that goal but the night before, with just one day to make it happen... it just can't be done."

He tried to convince me and I just kept being stubborn and obstinant with him. He told me not to kill the messenger. But when I hung up the phone, I got to work and started making plans with Hna. Cano. We made a list of all our investigators and those whom we had committed to come to church. We didn't have time to visit everyone we needed to to get a commitment from the others, but we made a list of people to call. Then we made a list of ward missionaries that could help us in the morning on Sunday to bring each investigator to church.

We worked hard all day Saturday, praying for the Lords help to accomplish this goal and by the end of the day I counted 14 investigators who had given us an affirmative "yes" that they would be at church and there were a few others who were possibilities. We got up early on Sunday, hoping for a miracle and started passing by for everyone. Well, with the help of a few of the ward missionaries, and the most help from the Lord, we had 9 investigators in church. I was super happy and a little bit sad at the same time because some of the investigators that I was sure would come, who I thought were the most positive, didn't show up. And three of the nine were brought by members and we hadn't even planned on them being there.

It is a great blessing when members bring their friends to church so I am excited to go and teach the new ones that came. But a little disappointed that we are another week behind with a few investigators who I thought were the strongest. Well, the Lord knows which ones will truly progress. But the point of the story is, have faith in the Lord to accomplish big tasks. I had to repent of my attitude on the phone with Elder Cruz, but once I did and decided to have faith and work to accomplish a goal that seemed bigger than life, the Lord did a miracle and brought nine investigators to church. More than quadrupling the number that we had last week.

I know that this is the Lords work. He is in charge. He is getting things done. The church will only go forward, it cannot go back. And we are simply here to be His hands, His voice.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - this is HIS work.

Love you all more than the smell of flowering trees in the dirty streets of Nicaragua.

Love, Hna. Crosland

P.S. The pictures are of the new shoes and of my little hija and of brother and sister Medina on Hna. Medina's birthday. We wrote her a song on the guitar and bought her a couple of cute parakeets. She loves them. Haha. It was a fun activity for us.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Letter #56 - October 11, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Thanks for the emails this week. I heard from all five of you and it was so fun! I love hearing about what is going on in your lives. And thinking about cooler weather. It has seriously been an inferno her this past week. The rain has actually slowed down a lot and that has meant a whole lot of intense sun. I'm longing for a bit of a breeze from the mountains in Provo. I really miss the seasons changing. I've now gone nearly a whole year in Nicaragua and besides a bit of rain, the weather is always the same: hot and humid.

So I had a number of interesting experiences this week. The first one was nearly being struck by lightning. Seriously. We were walking along the street, looking at the clouds that were threatening to get us soaked, and a few big drops were just starting to fall. We had just passed by a corner where a bunch of guys were standing around who looked up to no good so when I initially saw the brilliant light and heard a huge crack, I thought they had fired off some kind of firework, as happens frequently here. But it was way to loud and way too bright to be a firework and the light raced into the ground. It was like 30 feet from us. We screamed and grabbed on to each other and then couldn't stop laughing about it for like five minutes. Whoa. I have never been that close to lightning.

The next experience was really embarrassing. Friday night we got in totally exhausted and finished up our numbers quickly because the Elders have been asking for them really early lately. Then I put my head on the desk waiting for the call and promptly fell asleep. A little while later, Hna. Cano tapped me on the shoulder. "ya hermana," she said. And in my daze, I got in my PJs, we said our prayers and I climbed up to my top bunk and went to sleep for the night. I was sound asleep when our renter came pounding on the door a little after 11 pm. "Las buscan!" he yelled. What on earth? I thought as I climbed down from the bed, not really fully awake yet. "quien?" I asked. "Los misioneros," he replied. And that's when it dawned on me that the call from the Elders never came and I had gone to bed without talking to them and they were now at the door to make sure we were okay.

So in my PJs, I went out to the main door and standing there was Elder Church, as well in his PJs, Elder Avila, the car of the AP's with Elder Gomez's head sticking out the window and two other office elders in the car. Oh, how embarrassing! I was pretty much horrified. We explained how we had fallen asleep and somehow not heard the phone and they were pretty tranquilos, but I felt way bad. When we got back in, l looked at the phone and we had like ten missed called. Even ward members had been calling. But the weird thing is that the first missed call was at like 10:40pm so that means that if the Elders called at the normal time of about 9:25pm, it never came in. I think something weird happened to our phone. Oh well, I'm sure basically the whole mission found out that the AP's had to come to our house to make sure we were in this week.

We also had some great experiences following promptings of the spirit. They strengthened my testimony that God guides us to those in need and those who are ready to hear the gospel. Thursday night, it was getting late and we had planned to just do some contacting before returning home. But then I thought of one of our investigators who wasn't home when we had tried to visit her earlier in the day. "How about we pass by for Ericka one more time?" I asked, "maybe now she's home." Hna. Cano agreed and we set off.

As we arrived at the house I thought I saw Ericka sitting in the back room, at the end of the dark corridor the leads to house, but when we asked if she was home, we were told she wasn't there. "Are you sure that's not her?" I asked, not wanting to give up so easily. "No, it's my grandma," said the muchacha. "And the other one?" I said, compelled to keep asking. "No, that's my aunt." Then she got up and began walking toward us. Her face looked dark and she had on heavy make-up around her eyes and a cigarette in her hand. She took a long draw and blew out the smoke. "If you want to come in and look, you can," she said challengingly, "I'm not lying. Ericka's not here." "No, that's alright," I said, "thanks." Then she surprised me with a question. "You've never seen me like this have you?" she said. I was taken back because although she seemed familiar, I didn't recognize her. "What's your name?" I asked, trying to remeber her. "you don't recognize me?" she said, turning her face to the light, "I'm Bianca."

Then it came to me that she was a friend of Ericka's who had come to an activity at the church about a month ago. We had taught her mom and sister a couple of times but not her specifically. "Do you know why I'm like this tonight?" she asked, and I could smell the liquor on her breath. "No," I answered simply. She then proceeded to talk for a good half an hour about an abusive relationship with her husband, and a father who after 30 years still abuses her mother, how she just couldn't take it anymore and how the day before, she had wanted to take her life. She planned to wreck her fathers car but to prevent her from doing anything, her brother in law had gotten in the car and when he finally calmed her down and she decided to turn back around to go home, she lost control of the car and got in an accident anyway. The worst part for her was that her brother in law got hurt and absolutely nothing happened to her.

We spoke little, but we spoke of the Savior, of the atonement, of hope. We sang "I am a Child of God" huddled there in the dark corridor and hugged her as she cried. She told us that we were her angels and that she knew God had sent us to her in her moment of need. She said she couldn't imagine what would have happened if she hadn't stood up and approached us to talk to us. We gave her the pamphlet of the plan of salvation and made an appointment to come back the next day. I left feeling a little amazed at how the Lord works and how he had sent us to listen to her. Pretty much all we did was listen but as she told us that she felt more at peace, that she felt hope, I knew that the Lord had used us that night, to lighten the load of one of his precious daughters. How grateful I am that the Spirit had guided us to that house and even though Ericka hid from us (because I'm pretty sure she was there) the Lord had someone else in mind when He sent us there.

Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - lifting the up the heads that hang down.

I hope you are all healthy, safe and well. Learning lots and seeking the Lord. I love you endlessly.

Love, Hna. Crosland

Monday, October 4, 2010

Letter #55 - October 4, 2010

Hey everyone,

I spent all my time writing an email to a girl that is coming to this mission in a while so I'll have to just give you brief updates. I am still in Cuidad Jardin but I'm finally training! It is so fun and my new companion "hija" is Hna. Cano from Guatemala. She's a cutie and really great. More about her later. Conference was wonderful and inspiring and I got to listen to all four sessions in english. What a blessing. The prophet is true and so is the gospel. Mom, thanks for your email and even though you feel like you don't express your thoughts well, you never cease to inspire me. Really. And my card doesn't expire until July 2012. I love you all so much and I'm sorry I couldn't write more.

For more reading material you can read the email I sent to the girl coming out... here it is:


Congrats on being called to the greatest mission on earth. You are in for the adventure of your lifetime. Okay, first to answer a few of your questions.

1) Temple clothes – leave them home. They’ll rent them for you in Guatemala and Provo.

2) Long sleeved shirts - I have a couple and I hardly ever wear them (like never). I did serve in the coldest area of Nicaragua and in that area. I was always borrowing sweaters that were heavier than the ones I brought. If I were you, I’d bring a couple light sweaters that you can put on and take off as the weather changes during the day and one heavy one for when you get sent to Jinotega.

3) My favorite skirts are the ones that I can wear any shirt with, that are a little bit longer and a little bit wider. Longer because you are going to have to sit on all kinds of things out here to teach people including rocks and stumps and curbs of sidewalks that are low to the ground. And wide because it doesn’t restrict you when taking big steps and getting on and off busses. Basically bring clothes you feel cute and comfortable in. Think about doing yard work in Sunday clothes when making your choices… ;)

4) I wouldn’t bring boots but I would bring a rain poncho (something plastic and cheap will work just fine) and an umbrella that is easy to carry around with you for the rainy season.

5) Don’t worry about getting enough clean water. In every apartment there are big 5 gallon jugs of agua pura and the mission pays for them to be delivered. Also in the MTC you’ll get a water bottle that filters any water you put in it.

6) I brought my personal debit card and yes, there ATMs (cajeros) everywhere that you can use. You’ll get a debit card from the mission as well where you’ll take out your monthly misisonary budgit.

7) Medications – bring a bunch of tylenol or ibuprofen or whatever your preferred pain killer is. Also bring anit-itch cream or allergy medicine. Also diarrhea medicine and something for stomach aches. Really you can get pretty much any kind of drug here over the counter, like stuff you need a prescription for in the states. And everyone here will tell you about a million different drugs that will help with whatever you might be suffering with. But for that we have a mission nurse. I would also bring a nail clipper than can handle and cut out ingrown toenails. Don’t worry about being sick. You’ll feel yucky and you just deal with it like a champ and then it passes. The Lord really takes care of His missionaries.

Well as far as other stuff to bring, I love my mountainsmith bag. It has a shoulder strap and a waist strap. I would just get one size bigger though. I got the small one and the médium one would have been better to fit PMG more easily.

To prepare, read PMG at least once through before you enter the MTC and memorize the order of the principles in the first three lessons. Then just get used to making small talk and talking with everyone! It was hard for me to just go up to random people sitting outside their houses and generate a conversation. Talk to everyone. The faster you get used to talking to people and making conversation the better and more comfortable you’ll be on the mission. I don’t know how your spanish is, but I think I can say that it will be a struggle for you at first. The Guatemala MTC will help a ton. I’ll try to make a list of good phrases in the next few months to give to you when you get here.

Also if you are musically inclined, bring arrangements of hymns and other church music. They are always in need of musical numbers for conferences and church meetings. Um… suitcases. I have one enormous one and one small one. I wish I had two médium ones. And don’t pack them both way full before you leave. Leave yourself some space. And maybe bring a simple back pack as well. I’ve had to pack for just one or two nights because of staying the night with some other hermanas and I wished I had something small to pack clothes in for just a day. I left my hair straightener home, but I would bring it if I could od it again. It’s nice to be able to fix yourself up nice for the conferences. Oh, that reminds me. Have one or two nice outfits for the conferences, like a cute suit jacket and matching skirt. Something sophisticated. You’ll get sick of feeling grubby, and the conferences are your chance to look nice.

Other things

- Travel pillow (or room in suitcase for a real one)
- More garments than they tell you to bring (like16 pairs)
- Travel iron
- Little compass because the directions here are crazy
- Two laundy bags, one to keep dirty clothes in while your clothes are being washed. A lot of time we live out of our suitcases. There aren’t places to put the clothes.
- A wallet to keep in your bag and one to keep the rest of your Money and personal debit card in in the house. Okay, that is all I can think of for the momento and really all the time I have today. If you have any more questions, feel free to send me an email at Michelle.crosland@myldsmail.net. See you soon!

Hna. Crosland